Ferreting out Gremlins
It's an appropriate day to talk about gremlins.
Paul McCartney was interviewed by National Public Radio's Robert Siegel on the October 15th broadcast of "All Things Considered." Paul was promoting his latest solo album, aptly named "New." Believing that his best work was way back when, when he was with the Beatles, I was only half-listening until I heard this portion of the conversation. Let's listen in:
RS: "I've heard from any number of illustrious (people) -- the fear, 'I'll be found out.' But, Sir Paul McCartney, you have had success in so many dimensions of music. You really feel a competitive insecurity with somebody else that's coming out with a record?"
PM: "Unfortunately, yes. One thing that's good about it is, I think it's a good motivator. It keeps you hungry...But I agree with you--I should be able to look at my accolades and go, 'Come on, Paul. That's enough.' But there's still this little voice in the back of my brain that goes, 'No, no, no. You could do better. This person over here is excelling. Try harder!' It still can be a little bit intimidating."
How reassuring to know that Paul McCartney has a gremlin--perhaps a full chorus of gremlins in his head--who can drown out decades of applause and appreciation from living, breathing groupies! What struck me was not just Sir Paul's openness about his gremlin's chatter, but his recognition of the gremlin's push/pull impact. It is important for all of us to know when our gremlins are motivating us to push through fear and lethargy, and when their messaging tips into intimidation. Just a whisper away from "You could do better" is the dreaded, dream destroying declaration: "You are not enough."
A coach essentially facilitates a conversation between a coachee and their gremlin(s). Wielding a flashlight and a microphone, a coach helps a coachee explore the dim corners of their psyche, where the gremlins feel safe to whisper warnings and criticisms. Listen for and ask about fears of being found out, not being smart enough, not having support, making a fool of themselves. When they can be clearly seen and heard, gremlins can be consciously confronted with what else is true, affirming, and encouraging about the coachee. Gremlin chatter always embodies some truth--that's why it has the potential to scare and stop us. But it's not the whole truth, and need not, must not be the shaper of our future story.
To illuminate, amplify, and thus demystify gremlins, read Rick Carson's "Taming Your Gremlin: A Surprisingly Simple Method for Getting Out of Your Own Way." It's a coaching classic--a fun, easy read, recently updated. Should I send a copy to Paul? Perhaps I'll just spring for stocking it in the Church's coaching library. Enjoy saying "boo" to the part of you that doesn't want to grow.